HK leader says new US law, vi­o­lence will harm econ­omy

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Hong Kong, China - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tues­day that clashes be­tween protesters and po­lice last week­end have damp­ened her hopes that a re­cent lull in vi­o­lence would al­low the ter­ri­tory’s econ­omy to re­cover.

The gov­ern­ment will soon launch a fourth round of mea­sures to sup­port busi­ness, pro­tect jobs and of­fer eco­nomic re­lief, she said af­ter a weekly meet­ing with ad­vi­sors.

Six months of un­rest have tipped Hong Kong’s al­ready weak econ­omy into re­ces­sion. The pro-democ­racy protests have be­come more vi­o­lent over time as the gov­ern­ment has re­fused to give ground on most of the move­ment’s demands.

The last two weeks have been rel­a­tively quiet, as ac­tivists fo­cused on win­ning district coun­cil elec­tions that be­came a ref­er­en­dum on pub­lic sup­port for the protests.

Pro-democ­racy can­di­dates won a land­slide vic­tory in the Novem­ber 24 elec­tions.

Po­lice used tear gas and pep­per spray balls in skir­mishes last week­end, as protesters blocked streets and van­dalised some shops seen as sym­pa­thetic to Bei­jing. Hong Kong is a semi-au­ton­o­mous ter­ri­tory of China.

The clashes were much smaller than ear­lier ones, but Lam said they threw cold wa­ter on her hopes that the rel­a­tive peace would hold.

“Again, we’re see­ing vi­o­lent scenes that we don’t want to see any­more,” she said.

Lam also said a new US law to de­fend hu­man rights in Hong

Kong will have an eco­nomic im­pact, un­der­min­ing con­fi­dence and cre­at­ing an un­cer­tain busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

The Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act re

quires an an­nual re­view of the favourable trad­ing sta­tus that the US grants to the city. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed it into law last week.

“We have freedom of the press, freedom of assem­bly, re­li­gious freedom – we en­joy a high de­gree of freedom in many ar­eas,” Lam said. “There’s an over­seas gov­ern­ment that in­ter­fered with Hong Kong af­fairs, and that is most re­gret­table.”

New York-based Hu­man Rights Watch said it regrets a de­ci­sion by China to sanc­tion it and other Amer­i­can rights and prodemoc­racy groups in re­tal­i­a­tion for the ap­proval of the US legislatio­n.

For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing didn’t spec­ify what the sanc­tions would be, but said the or­gan­i­sa­tions had ‘ performed badly’ in the Hong Kong un­rest.

The Na­tional En­dow­ment for Democ­racy, the Na­tional Demo­cratic In­sti­tute, the In­ter­na­tional Repub­li­can In­sti­tute and Freedom House were also named in the Mon­day an­nounce­ment.

‘Rather that target an or­gan­i­sa­tion that seeks to de­fend the rights of the peo­ple of Hong Kong, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment should re­spect those rights’, Ken­neth Roth, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said in a state­ment.

Hu­man Rights Watch said it has re­peat­edly urged Hong Kong po­lice not to use ex­ces­sive force to sup­press peace­ful protests, while also call­ing on protesters and those op­posed to them to re­frain from vi­o­lence.

It has also urged the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate po­lice ac­tions, one of the protesters’ demands.

China said it would also sus­pend vis­its by US mil­i­tary ships and air­craft to Hong Kong. Navy ships oc­ca­sion­ally make port calls dur­ing Pa­cific tours, and China has blocked them in the past dur­ing pe­ri­ods of ten­sion.

“Bei­jing’s tantrum doesn’t change any­thing,” said US Sen Ben Sasse. “The US Navy didn't spank the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party in last week’s elec­tions, the peo­ple of Hong Kong did.”

There’s an over­seas govt that in­ter­fered with Hong Kong af­fairs, and that is most re­gret­table

Carrie Lam

(AFP)

Hong Kong Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Carrie Lam speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Hong Kong on Tues­day

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